MLOps Zoomcamp: Free MLOps course. Register here!


The Essentials of Public Speaking for a Career in Data Science

Some tips on how to boost your public speaking skills as a data scientist

31 Jul 2022 by Angelica Lo Duca

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Data science is a relatively new field, and public speaking is an essential skill for anyone looking to build a career in this field. The ability to communicate complex data concepts clearly and effectively is essential for success in data science.

If you’re data-driven and looking to boost your career in science, public speaking is a great way to get noticed. But how exactly do you do that? We’ve got the essentials of public speaking for data science so you can make a splash at your next conference.

The article is organized as follows:

  • Setting up your mindset

  • Getting started

  • Organizing a talk

  • Top public speaking skills to acquire

Setting up your mindset

There are many different ways to get involved with data science, but one of the most important is AI evangelism. An AI evangelist is an “AI missionary”, who tries to convince you that your company needs AI. To be a little bit more specific, you can see AI evangelism as something sitting in between product and engineering and marketing.

As a data scientist, you have the opportunity to be a powerful voice in the promotion of artificial intelligence and its potential to change the world. This means that you have a responsibility to educate others about what AI is and how it can be used for good. You can do this by writing blog posts, giving talks, or even just having conversations with people who are interested in learning more.

No matter what platform you use, your goal should be to provide accurate information about AI and its potential implications. It’s also important to be respectful of different perspectives and open to debate. After all, data science is still a young field and there is a lot that we don’t yet understand about its potential.

By engaging in AI evangelism, you can help shape the future of this exciting field and ensure that it is used for the benefit of all.

Getting started

The most important thing you can do to become a great public speaker is to practice, practice, practice. The more you get up in front of an audience, the more comfortable you will become with speaking. Additionally, it is important to be well-prepared before each speaking engagement. Know your material inside and out, so that you can focus on delivering your message rather than worrying about what you are going to say next. Finally, remember that confidence is key. Radiate confidence and your audience will believe in you and your message.

More in detail, to become a great speaker, you should follow these steps:

  • Identify your niche. What is it about data science that you’re passionate about? What are you an expert in? Once you know your focus, start pitching your ideas to conferences. Keep your pitch short and sweet-you don’t want to overwhelm the organizers with too much information.

  • Practice. The more comfortable you are with your material, the better you’ll be able to engage with your audience. If possible, record yourself giving a talk and watch it back-this will help you identify any areas that need improvement.

  • Connect with people. The more genuine and enthusiastic you are, the more likely you are to make a lasting impression on your listeners. So go out there and show the world what data science is all about!

In addition, you should take care a lot about the audience feedback, because it’s a point of reference. You need to consult with the audience after the talk, to find out. You’re not going to make everyone happy. You’re always going to have some people that didn’t like the talk or they’ve got some criticism.

Organizing a talk

One of the most successful ways to organize a talk is by transforming it into a story. You can do that, by focusing on the following aspects:

  • Getting attention

  • Being remembered

  • Audience feedback

The following figure summarizes how to organize a talk:

Getting Attention

When it comes to giving a presentation or speech, the introduction is often the most important part. This is your chance to make a good first impression and set the tone for the rest of your talk.

When you start a talk, you have all the audience’s attention, but they are going to quickly decide if they’re going to pull out their phones, their laptops, or disengage. One of the most important things that make the difference is the first impression. You can think of your audience as being like cold taffy and you have to warm them up. You can warm them up in different ways, such as humor, storytelling, something surprising, and so on. There are a lot of emotions you can play with.

When you introduce yourself to your audience, you should give them a reason to listen to you. One strategy could be doing a resume overview, like, “I worked here, this is my title. A better approach, which is very difficult, is to immediately jump into a story where the audience concludes that you are the hero of that story. If the audience concludes that you are a hero, you have taken them on an emotional journey. If you’re in the hero territory, then the perceptions are very different. You’re perceived as being in the top 1%. You’re not lying. You’re not trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, but you’re entertaining them with a story. To tell the hero’s journey, for example, you might pick an AI project in the last 6 months or 12 months, where you’ve nearly failed and then you might just dive into the story.

There’s an important alternative that you can do, and that is having someone else introduce you. A lot of times you’ll have a chair at a conference that will introduce you. But in most cases, they’re reading your bio. But if the chair reads your bio through a storytelling lens, and they say, “I’m so excited about the next speaker! He is one of the best,” and goes down the list, It changes everything. You can actually get the audience into hero territory, just with the chair’s introduction of you.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when crafting your introduction:

  1. Make it short and sweet. The last thing you want to do is bore your audience with a long-winded intro. Get to the point and give them a taste of what’s to come.

  2. Be confident. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before a big speech, but don’t let it show. Speak slowly and deliberately, and project confidence in your voice and body language.

  3. Hook them from the start. Start with a bang! Tell a joke, share an interesting fact, or ask a rhetorical question to engage your audience from the get-go.

  4. Set the stage. Give some brief background information on the topic of your talk so that everyone is on the same page.

  5. Tease what’s to come. whet your audience’s appetite by giving them a sneak peek of what’s in store for the rest of your presentation.

Being remembered

You need to give the audience something for free — some learned insight, some key points. If they never see you again, they need to be able to leave and say, “Thank you. That is useful for me.” You need to identify what that is. Identify the warm-up, and then identify the key takeaways that they can have.

There are other tricks you can have in the talk where you can have a call to action, or something at the end where you try to engage people to go to a certain place, watch something or reach out to you specifically for further questions.

When you’re giving a presentation, you want to be remembered for your great ideas and insights, not for your nervous fidgeting or “um”s. Here are a few tips to help you make a lasting impression.

  1. Make eye contact: It sounds simple, but making eye contact with your audience is one of the best ways to establish a connection with them.

  2. Use body language: Your body language should convey confidence and ease. Avoid crossing your arms or legs, and try to keep your hands relaxed.

  3. Speak clearly: Be sure to enunciate your words and speak at a moderate pace. This will help ensure that your audience understands you and doesn’t get lost in trying to decipher what you’re saying.

  4. Smile: A genuine smile will make you seem approachable and likable — two qualities that will help make your presentation more successful.

  5. Be prepared: One of the best ways to boost your confidence is to be thoroughly prepared for your presentation. Know your material inside and out so that you can focus on delivering it effectively rather than worrying about what comes next.

Audience feedback

If someone from the audience asks you a question, it means that your presentation was successful.

During Question & Answer, if someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, or if you think the question is embarrassing, the temptation is to try to answer it. That’s really bad. Don’t try to answer a question you don’t know the answer to. If someone asks you a technical question, there’s a good chance that the textbook question is so technical that it’s actually not a lot of value for the audience.

You should just give up. You can say, “does anyone else in the audience know the answer?” or “let’s talk about this after. I’d love to hear your perspective.” And then go on to the next question where you actually can answer it.

Writing a talk proposal for conferences

If you are starting out your speaking career, it’s easier for you to go land a local meetup, because you might be able to actually meet the meetup organizer. They’re always looking for interesting talks. If you can work with a local meetup organizer, get a talk there, and actually get a recording — such as a YouTube video — that’ll give you something you can share. Then you have a talk about yourself. You can even imagine a scenario where you could give a talk to no one like, “Hey, everyone listening” You’d organize a talk, you could go record a talk and post it to YouTube. You could share that, trying to pitch yourself into a meetup or pitching yourself into a conference. That way they know that you can give a talk. It’s also important to understand who the conference organizers are because they’re really the decision makers.

You need to fight sameness. You need to run away from sameness because humans are novelty-seeking creatures. When you submit your idea, try to be creative. If you’re interested in giving talks at data science conferences, you’ll need to write a talk proposal. This is a document that outlines your talk and why it would be a good fit for the conference.

Your talk proposal should include:

  • A brief description of your talk

  • The main theme or topics that will be covered

  • Why do you think this would be a good fit for the conference?

  • Any supporting materials you have (e.g. slides, demos, etc.)

Writing a strong proposal is essential to getting your talk accepted. Take some time to review the conference’s call for proposals and make sure your proposal aligns with their themes and goals. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the conference organizers.

There are often many different topics to choose from, so it’s important to pick one that will be both informative and engaging. Here are some good topics to begin your talks on:

  • The current state of data science and where it’s headed

  • The importance of data science in today’s world

  • How data science can be used to solve real-world problems

  • Interesting case studies or examples of data science in action

  • Your own personal experiences with data science

Top public speaking skills to acquire

There are a lot of important skills to acquire when seeking a career in data science, but public speaking is definitely one of the most important. Being able to effectively communicate your findings and insights is crucial in this field, and it takes practice to hone this skill. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Know your audience. It’s important to tailor your message to those who will be listening. Consider their level of understanding and what you want them to take away from your presentation.

  • Be prepared. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Make sure you know your material inside and out so that you can deliver a confident and polished presentation.

  • Use simple language. Data can be complex, but your presentation doesn’t need to be. Use clear and concise language that everyone can understand.

  • Engage your audience. Keep your audience engaged by using stories, examples, and humor (when appropriate). no one wants to listen to a boring lecture, so make sure you keep things interesting!

  • Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice, the better you’ll become at public speaking.


Congratulations! You have just learned the essentials of public speaking for a career in Data Science!

Public speaking is an essential skill for anyone in the field of data science. Data scientists are often called upon to present their findings to clients, managers, and other stakeholders. Being able to deliver a clear and concise presentation can make all the difference in whether or not your audience understands and buys into your work. If you’re looking to advance your career in data science, start by honing your public speaking skills.

The content of this article has been inspired by the podcast episode The Essentials of Public Speaking for Career in Data Science with Ben Taylor at DataTalks.Club.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and join our Slack.
We'll keep you informed about our events, articles, courses, and everything else happening in the Club.

DataTalks.Club. Hosted on GitHub Pages. We use cookies.